This section looks at the 'On Through The Night' album release in the UK. The first studio album released by the band which was recorded in late 1979 just outside of London, England in Ascot.
"We had a real lot of fun making that record. That's why it sounds like it does."
Def Leppard released their debut album On Through The Night on 14th March 1980 in the UK.
The album was then released in the USA/Canada on 26th March.
It had been recorded at Startling Studios in Tittenhurst Park, Ascot, England. A country home owned by ex Beatles drummer Ringo Starr which was featured in John Lennon's 'Imagine' promo video.
The estate is located between the Ascot Racecourse to the West and the Thorpe Park Resort to the East. Just under 30 miles to the South West of central London and only 15 miles from Reading where they would play a festival show in August 1980.
The band partied and messed around on motorbikes in the grounds of the large estate which even contained a life-size Dinosaur statue. This was captured in photos later used for the High 'n' Dry album's inner sleeve.
The album released was preceded by the first single 'Hello America' which almost became their first Top 40 hit in the UK.
The album peaked at Number 15 in the UK chart and would spend 8 weeks in the Top 100 from late March to early May.
It was produced by Tom Allom who had previously worked with Judas Priest. The band had initially wanted to work with Mutt Lange but would have to wait until album number two.
The On Through The Night world tour started in early April with their first major UK headline shows following a two month warm-up tour in January/February. They would them head to the USA before returning to the UK and Europe.
Read some of the band's thoughts on this album from various sources between October 1988 to 2011.
On Through The Night - October 1988 MTV Special Band Quotes
Steve Clark - "We recorded the first album at Startling Studios, which is owned by Ringo Starr in Ascot. And we had a real lot of fun making that record. That's why it sounds like it does."
Rick Savage - "It's a vague memory doing the record because it was the first time. It's like 'so this is what it's like to be in the music business' sort of thing."
Rick Allen - "I think we drank far too much."
Rick Savage - "We used to get drunk every night and still try and record. And it's like totally young kids playing at being musicians and I think that's how it sounded to me."
On Through The Night - Joe Elliott July 2011 Interview Quotes
"You know, that first record, Tom Allom produced it, God bless him. Lovely guy and a good producer. But I think his instructions from the record label must have been something like, "Just capture the band's energy, man." We'd been playing most of those songs live for 18 months. So, if anybody came along and suggested we change them in any which way, we wouldn't have been able to. We'd lived with them for so long. We just had to leave them as they were and record them as best we could. Because we knew the songs so well, we had the backing tracks down in a day. And then we spent three weeks ruining that record by doing way too many overdubs. That was the thing that we had a struggle with. It was us trying to find our way.You know, a lot of people got a great affection for that record, but as I always say, "Yeah, but it's hardly the first Van Halen or Boston album, is it?"
"The one good thing about it was it gave us a launch pad to get better from. And I believe that when we got to High 'N' Dry and on to Pyromania and Hysteria, we started doing the record the first album should have been. We couldn't get Mutt [Lange] to do the first album, he wasn't available. It was fun working with Tom, but we spent most of the time drinking wine and having a good time as opposed to making a good record. I didn't really always enjoy making albums with Mutt, but I certainly enjoyed listening to them afterwards. But it's the other way around with On Through The Night."
"It's a bit naive and it could have been a better record. I would love the opportunity to take it in the studio and remix it. Sadly, the house where we recorded it, which used to be John Lennon's place in Ascot, got bought by some billionaire Arab guy. He took all the master tapes - which would have been in one of the rooms of the studio - into their outdoor pool, and filled it in with earth and put a garden over the top of them. They're lost forever."
On Through The Night - Joe Elliott 1989 Interview Quotes
"If you play the four albums back to back, you can definitely hear a progression. On the first album, On Through The Night, you hear the ideas executed very badly. On the second album, High N' Dry, you hear us getting a lot heavier but the album is very tightly recorded. The third album, Pyromania, is where we came into our own--we had the ideas, the harmonies and the arrangements of the first album, plus tightness of the third album. With Hysteria, we took it one step further."
"When Pete Willis was in the band in the early days, he was listening to a lot of Pat Travers and Judas Priest, which is where the very heavy stuff came in. Steve (Clark), our main writer, was more into Zeppelin. Sav (Rick Savage) was a big Queen fan. And I was very into the glam stuff. I like Mott The Hoople, Alice Cooper, Sweet and Slade."
On Through The Night - Producer Tom Allom Rockpages 2011 Interview Quote
"The band was very tight and it was easy to get good performances out of them. They had no fear of the studio and because I was quite a bit older than them (they were very young at the time) I think they looked on me as a kind of father figure! It was them that nicknamed me The Colonel."
BBC Radio 1 Rock Till You Drop Documentary 1993 - Interview Quotes
Def Leppard's reputation as a live act continued to grow through 1979. Meanwhile the band themselves were more than ready to record their first album.
Joe Elliott - ".We couldn't wait to get in because we had the music. We'd been playing it live for well over a year and we were bored of it. But we knew that we had to get it out of our system on to vinyl."
"And we really wanted to work with Mutt on the first album. Mutt Lange, but he was unavailable. See by the time we got recording our first album. We'd parted company with our original management and we'd signed to Leber Krebs who Peter Mensch was working for who is our now manager with Cliff Burnstein."
"And he was, because of AC/DC who were managed by Leber Krebs, he was good friends with Mutt. And we always admired his production work and wanted to work with him but he just couldn't do it."
"And we went with Tom Allom because he'd done Priest's live album, and some, I think he done some studio stuff with Priest as well. And he'd done Pat Travers."
"And it turned out Tom was a great guy to work with. He was a charming, very...we used to call him the Colonel 'cause he had this sort of like, you know, very upper class sort of accent. I think it was fake. He used to put it on. And he used to drink his wine with two fingers and three sticking out you know."
"He always ended up getting blitzed after 8pm, as we all did. So whatever got done at night normally got redone the next morning."
"But you know we blitzed through that album. We got all the backing tracks done in one day. And spent 20 days wasting our time overdubbing."
"Which that's what ruined the album for me. But we went in there and we had a ball. I mean we were doing it at Startling Studios which was Ringo Starr's house at the time. But it was the big mansion that used to belong to John Lennon."
"In fact if anybody's seen the Imagine video. The room where's he's sat with all the windows closed playing the white piano. That was the pool room when we were doing it. And I won the toss for the master suite so I was in John Lennon's bedroom."
"And you know it was this huge aceridge of land around it and Rick was burning up the grass on his motorbike. We were in and out of the swimming pool. It was great. I mean it was the middle of winter but it didn't bother us. We were still, you know, riding around on the motorbike and there was big models of dinosaurs and buffalos and rhinoceros in the garden."
"It was a very strange setting for five kids that had come straight out of two up two down terraced houses in Sheffield. And downstairs there's the studio and there was this lovely little lady called Rose who used to come in and cook for us in the evening."
"And I remember she had a it at Rick one day because we were trying to get a cowbell sound on a song called It Don't Matter. The cowbell didn't sound like a cowbell down the mic. So we ended up using her kettle and when she got it back of course the thing was just bent in half."
"I have really fond memories of recording that album, but that's the problem. We were so drunk and so naive and so untamed. We didn't channel thos like massive energy thing that we'd got going properly. And we ended up with a bit of a mish mash of an album."
"We had great fun doing it but it's the one album I can only listen to it in the state I was in when I made it. And consequently I don't get that drunk that often to ever wanna play it too much."
"I think there's some great songs on there and I'd love to get the tapes and remix it personally. I much prefer everything we've done since."
And what about Sav how does he feel about On Through The Night?.
Rick Savage - "I will always defend it to a certain extent because it's how you thought of it at that period in time. I mean it's all very well looking back ten, fifteen years later and think oh well we should have done this, we should have done that."
"I mean you can't really do that. So you have to defend it to a certain extent. I like all the songs. I think the songs are great. I just wish that we'd have recorded them slightly different."
"The problem was is that we'd rehearsed all but two of the songs for a year or so. And we'd been playing them live. And you know in fairness the songs as they stood was all they needed to be."
"And we, myself and Rick recorded the bass and drums for all the songs in a day. And all was left was basically just do some guitar overdubs and the lead vocals really."
"And we ended up spending the next three weeks just completely putting more and more stuff on to this, on to the backing track that really didn't warrant it at the time."
"Or if it warranted it the way that it was done was very misdirected and that's the frustrating thing about it. We should have basically just recorded the album in a week because that's all the songs really warranted."
"And that's one thing we've always tried to do since then. Is it's OK spending a long time on a song if the song actually warrants exactly what you're doing. And we kind of got a, again it was just naivety on our part."
"But, you know, you sometimes you have to put your life in the hands of a producer as well and I don't think that we were very well directed at that point."
"We always have a joke about songs like Sorrow Is A Woman for example. That's the very first song that I ever wrote you know. I can kind of laugh at some of the parts of it but at the same time I still somewhere deep down something says it's not a bad effort for your very first song you know."
"And again I think a lot of them are good. I mean I like Rock Brigade. But more so in those days what we would do is just come up with guitar riffs."
"Very few of us had much idea on how the vocal would go. We always just kind of compiled this kind of collection of guitar riffs. Which were quite interesting. And kind of throw them at Joe and say you know you've gotta sing over this sort of thing."
"And that's basically in the early days how a lot of the songs came about. And it would be fair to say that Steve was probably the major contributor in that field you know."
"And since then we've all become a little bit more conscious of what Joe's gotta do. There's still room for the guitar riffs because I mean that's what makes the songs sound interesting, you know, ultimately. Provided you can get the right vocal line with it you know."
"But now as opposed to say back in 1980 I think more people are more aware of what Joe has to sing."
1987 'Animal Instinct' Biography Quotes
Def Leppard recorded the bulk of its debut album in only one day. Rock Brigade, Hello America, It Don't Matter, Getcha Rocks Off, When the Walls Came Tumblin' Down - these were songs the band had been rehearsing and performing for nearly two years.
They couldn't get them any tighter. In less than twenty-four hours at Startling Studios, a converted mansion in Ascot owned by ex-Beatle Ringo Starr., Def Leppard recorded nearly a dozen backing tracks.
They were, however, financially committed to a month's worth of studio time at Startling, which they felt obliged to use up.
A month worth of overdubs and remixes later, On Through The Night, sounded like the life had been boiled out of it.
Steve Clark - "It was like painting a picture without knowing when to stop.".
The man with the brush was Tom Allom, a produced with major successes by guitarist Pat Travers and Judas Priest to his name.
Pete Willis was a big fan of Allom's work with Travers and the rest of the Leppards were long time Priest freaks, so Allom seemed to be a good choice after the Mick Tauber disaster.
He was also good at getting a live sound out of the band.
On their first day at Startling, Def Leppard set up their equipment and tried to cut a backing track for Wasted.
After four run throughs, they dejectedly called it quits.
But the next day, Leppard went in there and cranked out ten backing tracks with a ferocity that, for the first time in a studio, matched their stage range. Nine of them ended up on the album.
Allom's only problem was knowing when to say "enough".
Joe Elliott - "The whole backing for the songs - bass, drums, rhythm guitars - were all done in that one day."
"But then we used up a good two weeks just doing overdubs."
"We could have done that entire album in a week. If we had, I'd probably like it a lot better now."
There was a lot to like about it then.
Whatever its shortcomings in retrospect, On Through The Night, vividly documented Def Leppard's shoot-from-the-hip guitars, Queen-aphonic harmonies and three minutes pop song savvy.
With youth comes ambition and Overture was full of it, to be sure.
But the song's breakneck middle and heavy-guitar-choir climax bespoke of Def Leppard's precocious vitality just as eloquently as the torpedo rockers Rock Brigade and Wasted which detonated Sides One and Two respectively.
Hello America, released as a single in February 1980, three weeks before the album, was vastly improved from the Tauber version, pumped up by Rick Allen's awesome teenage horsepower and brightened by sheetmetal vocal harmonies.
It Don't Matter remains one of the hottest rockers in Leppard's songbook, a driving UFO-esque workout.
Even songs like Sorrow Is A Woman and It Could Be You, overloaded with unnecessary rhythmic changes and overcomplicated riffs, demonstrated the band's diligent attention to hooks and choruses, the songbait with which they intended to net an audience far beyond the borders of headbangerland.
In the Rock Epic Department, roadie and aspiring lyricist Andy Smith checked in with an ambitious edn-of-the-world scenario for When the Walls Came Tumblin' Down, applying the biblical image of Jericho's crumbling eddice to a post-Hiroshima landscape."
(The city's heart no longer beats/No pity have I left to tend/A sinner sits reciting Dylan/It's now that welcome the end).
Smith, a rabid fan of English folk-group the Strawbs, was beside himself with delight when Allom brought in Strawbs vocalist Dave Cousins to recite the Orson Wells-style intro to Walls.
Yet there was no lack of laughs in Def Leppard's metal-pop attack either.
Hello America was nothing less than Joe Elliott's version of the Beach Boys in spandexand fuzztone, singing "I'm a takin' me a trip/I'm going down to Califor-ni-yaay/Yeah I'm going to try Hollywood and San Pedro Bay yeah yeah" with he-man delight.
In truth, Joe had no idea there even was a San Pedro Bay when he wrote the words.
He simply picked up an Atlas and used the first Californian city he saw with an "a" sound at the end.
The only noticeable gaff on the album was the phony applause at the end of Getcha Rocks Off (billed on the album as simply Rocks Off).
Ins pite of Allom's overattention to detail and Leppards own studio naivety, On through The Night, was the best possible album Def Leppard could have made at the time.
Upon release, the record quickly sold 30,000 copies in Britain and polevaulted into the Top twenty.
Classicrockrevisited - Tom Allom July 2013 Interview Quotes
"I was their dad. They were very young. Joe [Elliott] might have been 21 and he was the old guy in the band."
"I went to Sheffield and I listened to their songs; they had some really great songs. We did that album in two weeks before Christmas and two weeks after Christmas. It was finished by mid-January. I had about a ten day break and then I went back into the same studio to produce British Steel."
"They were great guys to work with and they were such a great band. I went to see them live before I did the album. They were opening up for AC/DC in Birmingham. They were fantastic and they were so young and vigorous."
"They were mad Pat Travers fans too. That guitar player that got kicked out, Pete Willis, even looked like Travers. Travers was his hero. They were such good players and they were so tight. It is a really good album. They went straight out on tour after the album opening up for bands like AC/DC, Judas Priest and Ted Nugent."
John Lennon at Tittenhurst Park in July 1971.
Street view of the entrance to the park.
Aerial view of the entire park including the lakes mentioned above by Joe.
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